Bloodborne Pathogen Compliance- Health Safety in the Workplace
According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), 5.6 million U.S. healthcare workers face bloodborne pathogens daily.
Infection control is only achieved by treating all human blood and bodily fluids as if they are known to be infectious for HIV and other bloodborne pathogens. With the proper BBP compliance training, healthcare workers gain insight into prevention and treatment.
Exposure to bloodborne pathogens is an inherent part of healthcare workers’ jobs; some of these body fluids that are possibly contaminated with bloodborne pathogens could result from suicide or homicide and may also be found at the scene of severe trauma. Protecting themselves and others from the various diseases these pathogens can cause is also part of the job.
Infectious, disease-causing microorganisms in human blood that pass from one entity to another through blood or other potentially infectious materials (OPIM) are own as bloodborne pathogens (BBP). Sharps and needlesticks are the most common injuries that expose workers to bloodborne pathogens. In addition, contact with other bodily fluids may also put you at risk.
Three of the most recognized bloodborne pathogens are HIV, HBV, and HCV. However, over 20 other pathogens are transmissible through the blood that can cause severe and potentially fatal diseases. The best way to keep everyone safe is by staying informed and getting the proper bloodborne pathogens training about what they are and how to avoid them.
Bloodborne pathogens that put healthcare workers at risk:
- Arboviral infections (especially Colorado tick fever)
- Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease
- Human T-lymphotropic virus type I
- Relapsing fever
- Viral hemorrhagic fever
Following is a brief introduction on what bloodborne pathogens are and healthcare workers’ responsibilities for keeping the workplace safe from infection.
What Are Bloodborne Pathogens?
Additional bodily fluids, such as saliva, feces, sweat, and urine, can carry bloodborne pathogens, although they are “low-risk.” Additionally, semen and vaginal fluids are considered “high risk.” Regardless of the risk level, clinicians should always take precautionary measures by wearing the appropriate PPE whenever they encounter these biohazards.
Other potentially infectious materials (OPIM)
Other bodily fluids include:
- amniotic fluid,
- cerebrospinal fluid,
- pericardial fluid,
- peritoneal fluid,
- pleural fluid,
- synovial fluid,
- and any bodily fluid visibly contaminated with blood
Human cell lines that carry bloodborne pathogens and HIV cell or tissue cultures, organ cultures, HIV or HBV culture medium, are considered OPIMs.
Healthcare Managers are required to maintain a Bloodborne Pathogens Exposure Control Plan. All healthcare workers need to understand and recognize the ways exposure and transmission are most likely to occur in their particular situation, whether through first aid, handling human cells in the lab, or cleaning the blood.
Bloodborne pathogens are most often transmitted through:
- Broken/damaged skin contacting infected body fluids
- Inadvertent punctures from broken glass, contaminated needles, or other sharps
- Mother to their baby at/before birth
- Mucous membranes contacting infected body fluids
- Sexual contact
- Sharing of hypodermic needles
The two most common ways healthcare workers are exposed are transmission due to contaminated sharps or contact between broken skin/mucous membranes and patients with infected body fluids. Intact skin provides an impenetrable barrier against bloodborne pathogens; blood on intact skin is not considered an exposure risk.
Infected blood can enter your system through:
- Damaged/broken skin (ex: blisters, chapped skin sunburns)
- Open sores
When handling blood or items contaminated with blood, it is crucial to wear gloves and other personal protective equipment (PPE) to help prevent infection. That is why all health workers should use universal precautions.
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